That's all well and good, but what's most fascinating about this patent is what it may tell us about Google's aspirations for the smart home.
Now, let it be said that patents are often purposefully expansive so a company can then claim future commercial concepts implemented by others infringe on their intellectual property. So with that grain of salt in mind, I think it's worth looking at some of the concepts in this document that may give clues to what a future Google smart home might hold in store for us.
Here are just a few:
Personal "Health", "Safety" and "Comfort" Area Networks
One idea that Google is floating within this patent is the idea of highly granular customization of a person's environment using a combination of smart home technologies such as sensors, location awareness, rules-based inference engines, artificial intelligence and more.
One example of a "health area network" given in the patent filing is one of a household pet moving through the house. Motion sensors will track the location of the pet and will increase the strength of an air purifier in a specific space to remove pet dander for those sensitive to such things. Another example is of sensors in the kitchen notifying the smart home system of someone cooking, which would temporarily raise the hazard detection threshold of a smoke alarm to account for small temporary increases in cooking related smoke.
Smart Home Integration With Autonomous Service Robots
The patent uses the term "service robot" extensively, which is parlance for any self-contained smart system within the smart home network such as a Nest Thermostat, but sometimes it can also mean something closer to what we see as actual robots like the Roomba cleaning robot/vacuum. In fact, the patent outlines scenarios where presence detection systems can be programmed to notify your Roomba or other cleaning robots to perform tasks while you are out of the house.
Localized Service Robots Follow Us Through Home
Another interesting concept is the idea of localized service robots that break down the traditional concept of a fixed device in a fixed location. The concept described in the patent is one of what is essentially a mobile thermostat that follows a person around within five feet radius or so of their location and than communicates with the HVAC and other comfort systems in the home to adjust to the preferred levels of the consumer
(Aside: One concept floated to me in a conversation recently was one of thermostats using temperature is somewhat of an antiquated, machine-centric concept. The idea here is that "comfort level" is more human centric concept, meaning that systems should detect whether a person is comfortable or not and adjust towards that, rather than a temperature. Esoteric sure, but logical).
Modular Wall Plugs Designed As Future-Proofed Foundation Of Intelligent Sensing Network
The patent describes a mesh-network enabled smart home that utilizes a network of smart wall plugs that are designed to be modular and upgradeable. The patent talks about these networks having swappable "head units" so they can be upgraded with the latest technology. Some of the technology blocks outlined for use in the patent include a speaker, microphone, processing, storage, GPS, RFID, as well as a variety of network technologies such as 4G, HomePlug, Bluetooth, and more.
Smart Doorbell Key Part of Access Control Intelligence
If this patent is any indication, the next product coming from Nest could be a smart doorbell. The patent describes a smart doorbell as foundational part of a contextually aware home and access control network, using the doorbell to enable notifications, contextualize experiences based on the identification of the person at the door and much more.
Ok, while patent applications are just that, and this might just be a combination of an ideation-as-smarthome-idea-landgrab exercise by Google, I think it's an important document for anyone trying to figure out where Google's (and Nest's) head is around the future of the smart, "conscious" home. I've only touched the surface what is in there - there's too much to detail in one post - but it's packed with ideas and concepts about what a highly futuristic smart home might look like. One of the things to note is this vision outlined by Google makes extensive use of artificial intelligence algorithms, technology which is foundational to a vision of a "conscious home" vs one that is simply just "smart".